A worthy correspondent of ours in New Jersey, reiterated the language of thousands when he informed us that the doctrine advocated in our paper was substantially the truth of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ; and the systems which we oppose were and are anti-christian; but still, he regretted to add, 'the spirit of the paper was bad.' This gentle rebuke, so far from breaking our bones, has proved to us an excellent oil, inasmuch as it has led us in the serious, and we trust, prayerful contemplation of the subject, to search the statute book of our King, for a rule by which to try the spirits; for if we are found propagating truth through a bad spirit, we must of necessity be classed with those who "hold the truth in unrighteousness." Truly, this appears to us a fearful subject; especially when we consider our own natural propensity to err, the inbred corruption of our nature, lest we should ourself prove a cast-away. Therefore with watchfulness and prayerfulness, we request our readers, as a party concerned, to follow us in the investigation of this important subject.
The good book informs us, 1 John, iv, that there are a plurality of spirits, and that these spirits are not all good; hence the inspired apostle exhorts his brethren to "try the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out in the world." Lest we should try them by such standards as, "I feel, I think, and I believe," which, to say the least, are but very imperfect rules, he has given the following infallible criterion, which must hold good until our divine Legislator shall come again without sin unto salvation. viz: "Hereby know we the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God: and this is that spirit of anti-christ, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already it is in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world; therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God. He that knoweth God heareth us. He that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."
By this divine rule, we arrive at the unavoidable conclusion, that there are but two classes of religious spirits in the world. The one is emphatically called the Spirit of truth; "Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him." - John xiv. 17. The other is the spirit of error. - 1 John iv. 6. And this is the spirit of anti-christ. - Verse 3. "A lying spirit," &c. - 1 Kings xxii. 22, 23, and 2 Chron. xviii. 21, 22. We are informed by our Lord Jesus Christ, Matt. vii. 18, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit;" and this text is applied by the Master to the very point now under consideration. Again, Luke vi. 43-45, "For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit; for every tree is known by its own fruit: for of thorns men do not gather figs; nor of a bramble-bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth evil things."
From these scriptures, it is plain that our paper cannot be filled up with the truth of the everlasting gospel, and yet be the product of a bad spirit. If then, our paper breathes a bad spirit, it is anti-christian; and consequently its spirit is the spirit of falsehood; and if such be the case, it cannot utter the truth as it is in Jesus, but must produce fruit which is of the nature of the tree. Hence the statement of our correspondent is evidently incorrect.
We would not be understood to contend that our periodical is free from imperfection; it does not pretend to be; nor do we ourself feel at liberty to look for absolute perfection in any uninspired writing; yet our aim and design is to publish nothing but truth in the name of the Lord, for the edification of his flock, and for the exposing of error by the light of truth. We do consider the fact somewhat remarkable, that among the numerous objections urged against the "Signs of the Times," by our opponents, no one has attempted to prove by the word of God that our doctrinal views were anti-scriptural; our most inveterate foes have generally been content to say, "The doctrine is good, but the spirit of the paper is bad." We can refer probably to several hundred instances where this sentence has been repeated by the enemies of this paper. If we are indeed advocating a bad cause, we would wish to desist; but upon what are we to conclude? Our enemies tell us that our doctrine is true; our experience tells us it is true; and our bible assures us that it is true. If in the agreement of so much testimony our cause is established, why are we charged with having a devil, or of being under the influence of a bad spirit, since by the fruit the tree is known? But, say our opponents, you are too censorious, too uncharitable; you denounce as antichristian, and as of the devil, many things which are highly esteemed among men; such, for instance, as Baptist Theological and Sunday Schools, Missionary and Tract Societies, protracted meetings, anxious benches, &c., merely because they do not accord with your own narrow contracted views. Just so. But if, as our enemies say, we advocate truth, all that stands in opposition to our cause is error. We therefore plead justification; for no lie is of the truth, but is and must be of anti-christ; and it is our business to expose it and oppose it with all our might.
But again, we enquire, is it not possible that we may be under the influence of the Spirit of truth, and yet be rejected, reviled and persecuted, as possessing a bad spirit? Again we take our reader back to the bible on this point; and here we learn that our divine Lord and Master was accused in a similar manner; when after the most scrutinizing search into his life, conversation, miracles and doctrine, they could "find no fault in this just man," - which is not our case - yet because he did not join their Temperance Society, they called him a wine-bibber; because he did not eat as did the Pharisees, they called him a gluttonous man; because he joined not in their society, but chose poor ransomed sinners as his associates, they called him a friend or publicans and sinners; and because he reproved them, they said he had a bad spirit, a devil; because he promulgated the doctrine of the everlasting gospel, they called him a blasphemer; and because he rejected the Jewish Church and State religion, and forbade any amalgamation of his kingdom with the political legislation of nations, they nailed him to a tree, and pierced his heart with a spear. Christian readers, were these things so? The Son of God declares, "If they have done these things in the green tree, they will repeat them in the dry;" and if they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, a bad spirit, they will much more them of his household. Search the subsequent history of the church of God, the ground and pillar of the truth. Begin with John the Baptist; they said he had a devil, a bad spirit; his head was carried from the prison in a charger, leaving his body behind. Peter and John were unlearned men; much learning had made Paul mad. They were whipped, imprisoned, and finally slaughtered. Stephen: on a charge of blasphemy went to heaven amidst a shower of stones. John, for not uniting with the world, when boiling oil could not execute the hellish purpose of his enraged foes, was banished to the Isle of Patmos. The crimson track of slaughtered thousands of the dear disciples of the Lamb, both under the Papal and Pagan government of ancient Rome, Papal Europe, and Protestant America responds to the declaration of the Great High Priest of our profession, "They have done these things in the dry tree." But did we mention America? Yes: verily the non-conformists of New England, as well as the Waldenses of the valleys of Piedmont, on the charge of having a bad spirit, have stained the earth with their hearts' blood, which they deemed less precious than the cause for which they contended, and in which they dared to die. The voice in which our martyred brethren's blood cryeth to heaven in testimony on this subject, mingling with the expressions of the souls mentioned in the apocalypse, lying under the alter, crying continually, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth."
But it is objected again, that the "Signs of the Times" make divisions, and that too among the Baptists, therefore the spirit of the paper must be bad.
To meet this question, we would enquire, If the tendency of the "Signs of the Times" to divide the Baptists is an argument that its spirit is bad, will not the same rule apply with equal force to the popular institutions of the day? Very few are so ignorant of the Baptist history as not to be aware, that from the abolition of church and state establishments in our States, until the rage of modern popular society frenzy commenced among them, the Baptists of America were the happiest people on the earth. But alas! they have gone down to Egypt for help; they have desired a king, that they may be like the nations (denominations) around them; and without pity for those who have chosen rather to remain on the old apostolic platform, have thrust with side and shoulders until they have carried their point, and have set up their idols on every high hill, and under every green tree, until Zion has been rent asunder, and the lame turned out of the way. If the argument is good, the conclusion is irresistible. The popular institutions of the present day among the Baptists are anti-christian, and ought to be opposed and exposed.
Again, was not the same objection raised against the gospel of our Lord when preached by himself and advocated by his inspired apostles? Jesus says, "Think not that I am come to send peace upon earth. I tell you nay. I am come to set a man at variance with his father," &c. Of the apostles it was said, These that turn the world upside down have come hither also. And when they preached in truth and righteousness, sonic believed, and some believed not; hence there were divisions caused by the preaching of the gospel of Christ. Was the spirit of the gospel then a bad spirit because it made divisions? That the spirit of the truth contained in the "Signs of the Times" is a discriminating and a dividing spirit, we cheerfully admit; but that this spirit separates the lovers of bible truth and gospel simplicity, remains to be proved. The gospel will indeed separate the precious grain from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, or the nominal from the real children of God; while other doctrines, whether they be of men or devils, will have a tendency to scatter the people of God, and at the same time to intermingle the precious with the vile.
But it is urged again, The spirit of the paper must be bad, for it is opposed to the circulation of the bible. This we deny. This paper is not, neither has it ever been, opposed to the circulation of the bible; but it has constantly recommended that holy book as the only infallible rule of faith and practice to the saints of God.
But the, "Signs of the Times," say they, is opposed to the circulation of tracts, and yet is itself only a volume of tracts; hence it acts inconsistently with its own peculiar sentiments, and must therefore be of a bad spirit. But, reader, this statement is not true; we wish the press to remain forever unshackled, and every individual of mankind the privilege of publishing and defending his sentiments upon his own responsibility; then truth will have an infinite advantage over error. But against Tract societies we have entered our solemn protest; because as God has authorized but one religious society on earth, under the present dispensation, the Tract Society is anti-christian.
Again, it is said our spirit is bad, and we oppose an educated ministry. This also we deny; we are neither opposed to an educated or an uneducated ministry, where either the one or the other are called of God to the work of preaching Christ and him crucified; but to the Baptist abomination called Theological Seminaries, or Colleges, to prepare young men to preach, we are decidedly opposed. We have given, and if spared, shall again give our reasons for such decided opposition.
But once more: It is said we are opposed to the general spread of the gospel; and if this charge is true, our spirit must be bad; but this charge our opponents have themselves refuted; for they admit that we publish the solid truth of the gospel, and that we manifest a zeal worthy of a better cause. The only grounds upon which we are charged as being anti-mission is, first, we refuse to be called the sons of Pharaoh's daughter, by hiring ourself to their societies and traveling under their commissions; second, by refusing to give our money to support such as they send out to convert the heathen and evangelize the world; and third, because we disclaim all fellowship with their God-dishonoring and heaven-daring inventions; finally, they say we are enemies to temperance, because we refuse to countenance and join their Temperance Societies, and we must have a bad spirit. We hardly need deny this charge, and will only say, should we ever find that the religion of Jesus Christ which we profess, the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, and the fear of God before our eyes, are not sufficient to deter christians from drunkenness, that a written pledge on paper, and an association with reformed drunkards would be a more effectual preventative, we may then, but not fill then, join your phalanx.
On the whole, notwithstanding we are reviled, and charged with having an evil spirit, yet we are disposed to go on, knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord. Brethren of the Old School, what say you?
NEW VERNON, N. Y.
December 10, 1834.
Elder Gilbert Beebe,
Editorials Volume 1